Space odyssey: UW, WSU students building tiny satellites (think Kleenex box-size)

Students at the University of Washington and Washington State University are building tiny satellites for launch into orbit in the next several years, gaining hands-on experience for possible careers in the region’s space industry.

When it’s finished, it’ll be only about the size of a large box of Kleenex. But DubSat1, as its builders are calling it, will become the first Washington state student-built satellite, and it will help launch some University of Washington graduates into space careers.

Both the UW and Washington State University were selected by NASA this year to build tiny satellites, known as CubeSats, that will go into orbit by the end of the decade.

“If Seattle is going to be the next big place for space — not just airplanes — it requires a large community that supports it,” said UW student Hunter Mellema, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering. “We’re really hoping the UW can be a bigger part of helping to build that here, and that this program can be the catalyst.”

Both student groups are getting mentoring help from the space industry, a growing segment of Washington’s economy that includes such companies as Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; Planetary Resources, a Redmond company that wants to mine asteroids; and Aerojet, a Redmond company that builds small rockets.

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The UW satellite is scheduled to launch first, sometime after August of next year, followed by the WSU satellite in 2019 or 2020.

DubSat1 will be 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 30 centimeters, also known as a triple cube, and will cost an estimated $80,000.

Already, the students have put in hundreds of hours of work testing prototypes, with help from the UW’s earth and space sciences department and its electrical-engineering department.

DubSat1 will stay in low-Earth orbit and send data and photos back to Earth for three to four…

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